Society / Profiles

Linda Custard’s Love of Theater Set the Stage For a Cultural Institution

The Dallas Businesswoman and Benefactor Was Key in Creating One of SMU's Greatest Successes

BY // 05.17.21

If you’ve ever joined a board in the Dallas community, you’ve probably encountered this month’s “She’s the Bomb” feature, Linda Custard. This powerhouse has worked tirelessly for years for organizations ranging from the Junior League of Dallas to The Salvation Army. We tried to chat by phone, but the cacophony generated by my dog and her lawn being mowed made us decide an in-person conversation was needed. The Meadows Museum at Southern Methodist University is another passion of hers, so we made a date at the famed institution, which is known for its rich collection of Spanish art (an achievement Custard was integral in). We spent an enchanting day wandering through the galleries, then lunched in the Founder’s Room under the watchful eye of museum founder Algur H. Meadows, whose portrait oversees the room.

Linda was born in Chicago, but when she was nine, her father moved the family to Dallas. She fondly remembers the first time she attended the opera at the age of five — which sparked a fire for the arts in her that continues to burn today. Upon graduating from high school, she spent a year at SMU, then attended Mills College, an all-girls school in Oakland, California, where she majored in speech and drama.

Given that she was in California, did she dream of becoming an actress — or rather, a movie star? “No,” she responds. “Mills had five productions a year which were performed for two days, over a Saturday and Sunday. On Monday, we immediately went back to work on the next play. One day, I walked out in the sun and realized that I didn’t want to spend my life in a dark theater so consumed by this art form.”

She decided to become a producer in life instead and coordinate projects that supported a community — something that required the same attention to detail. As she says, “The theater set the foundation for my life’s stage.” Around this time, she met the love of her life, Bill Custard, a sixth-generation Texan, whom she calls “more than just a husband.” They have three children — their first-born, a son named Allen, then two daughters, Marla and Laura — and five grandchildren.

Linda embarked on a new journey when she found herself an empty nester and entered the Cox School of Business at SMU. When she graduated in 1999, the dean of the Meadows School of the Arts asked her to chair the debut gala of the new Meadows Museum building, which had just broken ground. One gala became “galas,” as two years of planning turned into a full week of opening festivities. The theatrical producing skills Linda had learned at Mills came into play as she marshaled more than 100 volunteers for that momentous occasion in Dallas’ cultural evolution.

She’s the Bomb: Linda Custard

Usually I go through a couple of albums with my Bombs before we find the perfect photo, but this was the first one Linda showed me. I was instantly in love with the dress.

River Oaks District

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Approximate date of the photo?
September 1992.

The occasion?
The opening of the SMU Greer Garson Theatre.

What were you wearing?
Galanos.

What price fashion?
It was part of his Spring 1992 collection — it was magical and transformative. Worth every penny.

What makes this photo important to you?
The evening was a splendid tribute to the film actress Greer Garson, an Academy Award winner whose elegance and grace enhanced her craft and a philanthropist whose gift to the Meadows School underscored the importance of education and training in the arts. I was honored to be part of such an event.

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